I’ve recently updated my Amazon page for ‘Impulse’ with a teaser of it’s prequel, Shattered. I’m aware that readers who have previously purchased it may not be able to see it, so I’m posting it here for those readers, or anybody who has read ‘Impulse’ and want a teaser into it’s prequel!
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C H A P T E R
O n e
“You know what’s gonna happen now, right?” Kris stared at Willow snuggled against the bulk of his bicep.
The desperation in her hazel eyes held hope and naivety. Revealing the harsh, cold reality would shatter her illusion of the reality she desperately wanted. Everyone has a mum and a dad, and they are happy, she always said, and one day we will have that, I know we will. After years of saying it, she’d almost convinced herself of it. But convincing him wasn’t as easy.
“Divorce,” Kris said.
She shook her head, her long brunette locks falling around her shoulders. “They wouldn’t divorce. I don’t want them to.”
Kris stroked the brunette locks aside. “That means nothing to them.”
“Maybe they’ll stop fighting,” Willow insisted.
Kris pursed his lips together, suppressing the laughter. Mum and Dad stop fighting? The child in Willow still longed to believe it was possible. When he’d calmed himself, he finally said, “They won’t.”
“Why not?” Willow tugged his arm, beckoning his undivided attention. Her red, puffy eyes must be sore from the tears that stained her cheeks. Her sleepy gaze never left him.
“Because Dad is a ba—“ He stopped abruptly. “He’s … uh.”
“A bad man?” Willow filled the blank.
His brow lifted, and he nodded gently. “Sure, a bad man.”
‘Bad’ didn’t even cut it. There weren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe him in civil terms: arrogant, repugnant, insensitive, disruptive, and his favourite of them all—
“Kris, I’m scared,” Willow whispered.
“I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise. You’re safe with me.”
“Will you sing me that song?”
For the first time that evening, Kris focused on Willow’s loving expression rather than the cursing through the floorboards. “You still remember that?” Kris hadn’t sung it for five years.
She nodded. “I do. I always sing it when I get scared.”
Kris tapped Willow’s hands gripping his arm, and she released him. She got up and stood beside the bed. He tugged the covers and peeled it back, wriggling beneath it. During Willow’s ‘down days’ as she called them, she’d creep into his room and crawl into his bed. He’d only discover her in the morning, cuddled against his chest for dear life. It started when she was eight, and she hadn’t grown out of the habit. Even at thirteen, she couldn’t face her nightmares alone.
“Come on, Willow. You must be exhausted, you’ve got school tomorrow.” He patted the navy bed sheet and she hopped on, cuddling against him. When she settled, he pulled the covers over them, tucking it around her shoulders.
Sudden voices boomed from the ground floor, almost vibrating from the raw emotion Mum projected.
Willow shuddered and buried her face against him, her hair flowing against his chest again. “Sleepy princess, rest your head,” she sang softly, her voice masking the exploding frustration from the kitchen.
Kris smiled and closed his eyes, remembering the first time he’d ever sang it her, even at thirteen she sought safety in his embrace. Together, they sang in perfect harmony.
“Close your eyes, lay down to bed, in your dreams you will see, just how perfect things could be.”
Her voice trailed away as Kris continued to sing, soothing her into easy dreams, far away from the chaos she continued to call a home. Her delicate hands gripped his white v-neck shirt, holding it closer to her chest.
Her steady breathing almost lulled him into daydreams before a slamming door broke the temporary serenity. Dead silence returned.
After several minutes, faint sobs took the place of dad’s angered words, voice raising, and devastation in their already unstable home.
Kris’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, making out the mass of tresses and her dark eyelashes barely visible from the shadows. A smile spread quickly and he wrapped his arms around her.
He glanced at the neon numbers on the alarm clock. 02:19. In just four hours Willow would be awake and ready for school by seven thirty. She had that parent-teacher meeting on Friday. Fuck. He’d have to ask Aaron to cover his shift at the bar. Friday’s were usually Mum’s cleaning days. Maybe she could take a night off. She usually tried to find time in her busy schedule of cleaning, but Dad?
The day Dad put Willow above work would be the day that scientists found a cure for cancer.
Quiet footsteps broke the silence. Once again, Mum went to sleep, alone. And Dad? Who knew where he was? Although he never filled the blanks, everybody knew. Wherever he spent his nights, it was better than here. Kris combed his fingers through Willow’s soft locks, de-tangling them and allowing them to rest comfortably.
The last time Kris had asked his father for money, he only laughed and dropped (a low amount of money, like spare change) into Kris’s hand.
Since then, Kris decided a job as a paperboy was better than begging for Dad’s attention. Perhaps working at a call centre during the day and at a bar during his evenings wasn’t the best way to earn money, but at least he could afford everything he needed.
He closed his eyes and sighed. Even without Advanced Level qualifications, his life didn’t end – it began, but there were limitations. He struggled to turn the thoughts off … just go to sleep.
Before too long, the buzzing woke him. He jolted forward, forcing Willow awake.
“Kris? We have to get up already?”
“Unfortunately. I’ll make you breakfast and lunch. I can also drive you to school if you’d like?”
She stretched her arms, and then her legs. With a yawn, she flopped back to the bed. “Five more minutes?”
“No more minutes.” Kris pulled the covers away. “We’ll be late, again. You’re already on thin ice, Willow.”
She abandoned the bed to grab his black dressing gown from the hook on the back of the door. “My friends call me Lola now. Do you like it?”
Lola? He shrugged. “It’s okay. But I like Willow the best, it suits you.”
“Nobody else is called Willow. It makes me different.” She wrinkled her nose. She only made that face when presented with vegetables.
Kris tugged his uniform from the bedside drawers, followed by his boxers and black socks. “Different isn’t bad. Why would you want to be exactly the same as everyone else anyway? You’re special.”
Willow slipped the gown on and it literally dragged behind her as she walked, the sleeves dangling down. “I don’t want to be special. People talk all the time. I’d rather be invisible.”
He sighed. Being invisible was impossible with Dad’s talent to cause chaos wherever he went. “Ignore them. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Though easier said than done, Kris had managed to deal with any torment with his fists. Willow on the other hand, remained quiet and absorbed every word, dwelling on the constant wish for normalcy. He shook his head. “You can go to college in three years anyway.”
“What if I don’t want? You didn’t.”
“I don’t care what I’ve done, you’ve got a future. You’re smart, and I won’t let you throw that away. Now go shower or we’ll both be late.” Kris crossed his arms over his chest and waited for her to leave the relatively small bedroom.
Granted privacy, Kris dressed for work quickly, then packed his black trousers, pinstriped waistcoat and white shirt into a bag. The murmur of the shower meant he had twenty minutes to prepare everything before they had to leave.
She could be trusted to get herself dressed without regular knocks on the door. He hoped. Kris rushed down the stairs, strolled through the living room and into the open plan kitchen. He lingered in the archway and stared at mum hunched over the butler sink, scrubbing away at a large frying pan. She didn’t ease her frantic scrubbing, she continued until the pan dropped into the soapy water.
“What did the pan do to you?” Kris asked, attempting to lighten the mood.
She looked back at him and offered a small smile. “Good morning, Kristopher. Did you sleep well?” She asked as if nothing had happened, as if Dad hadn’t shattered the minor reparations of their family unit.
“I did. How about you?”
“Like a baby.” The bags under her puffy eyes begged to differ.
“I’ll be home late tonight, can you pick Willow up?” Kris tugged a loaf of crusty bread from the cupboard and grabbed four pieces from the centre.
“Hmm?” Mum looked at him, head tilted to the side.
Kris repeated his question, and waited for a response.
“Oh, right. Of course I can. Do you have any bus money? We’re running low. I hate to ask but—”
Kris shook his head. “It’s fine. I’ll have to give you the money later when I get paid. Can you wait until tomorrow?” He tugged his wallet from his pocket and found £10. “This is all I have for now.”
“I will pay you back,” she insisted.
The chances of that were slim. “Don’t worry, mum. Are things okay with Dad?”
She tried to smile, but her eyes betrayed her. “That’s nothing you need to worry about. You’d better make your sister’s lunch before she comes down moaning!” She laughed, but it quickly faded.
“Right. Willow tantrums aren’t great at six in the morning.” Kris tugged a pack of smoked cheese from the fridge and a large tomato.
Silence took over. Mum continued washing the same pan as he finally prepared the sandwiches, and cut them into quarters. He placed them into a lunch box, followed by a vine of green grapes.
“What’s Dad doing today?”
“Oh, just working. He’s busy, as always.”
“As always,” Kris agreed. When did he ever have time to spread time with them as a family?
Footsteps bounded down the stairs. “I’m ready!” Willow shouted, her steps bringing her closer until thin arms clung around his waist. “I forgot to tell you. I’m in trouble and you need to meet with the Head Teacher.”
Kris groaned. “What did you do this time?”
“Nothing!” Willow squeezed him. “But I might have got into a fight with Ashley.”
Ashley? He only remembered hearing about her once, and that was when Willow threatened to hit her with a hockey stick. He shouldn’t laugh, but he couldn’t bear the thought of Willow asserting any form of violence, be it physical or verbal, without some form of amusement.
“What did she do this time?”
“She called me Willoner. So I told her to shut up, and she didn’t, so I hit her. I’m sorry, Kris. You’re already busy and here I am getting in trouble.” She released his waist.
Mum didn’t respond. She hummed quietly to herself, still acting as if nothing was wrong. It’s a wonder their family had survived this long.
“It’s okay. Just to ignore it, she’s just a stupid little girl anyway.” He popped the lid onto the lunch box. “Be a good girl today. I’ll talk it over with the Head Teachers. Please try to play nicely. Don’t get in too much trouble. It was hard enough to get you off the first time. Best behaviour, Miss Honess.”
He turned around and offered the lunch box.
“I’m always good – it’s the other girls you should tell to behave themselves!”
Mum’s sudden gasp for breath caught their attention, sucking the noise from the room. Kris grabbed Willow’s hand and walked towards the cowering woman leaning over the sink.
“See you tonight, mum.” He kissed her cheek.
She nodded. “G-goodbye.” Her voice was barely audible.